This is a very interesting thread to read and a great post here, although of course I wish that I wasn’t reading it. Anyways, these are very useful when I am doing research into speedway and the general feedback about it. It is clear that there is a lot of frustration out there and I know this thread is dedicated to trying to identify what has gone wrong as opposed to the all the successes it has too.
If I look at the points and how it affects my own club (when I write my, me or I, I always mean Martin Widman and myself) there are some very interesting comparisons.... For example, I completely agree about the darts - we watched it on the box last night and I said to my Lisa, how on earth did darts get so good - what took it up to this level and why isn't it possible with speedway. Of course, we all know that it is possible to do it with speedway - we try to put on as much "quality" razzmatazz as possible on race night, the build-up, and all our social events because speedway is no longer just about speedway. However, in my view, the main difference about darts and speedway is anyone can nip down the pub, pick up some arrows and throw them, you can’t for speedway and that the darts we see on the box is the elite players in a conference centre packed with fans, PLUS one-time attenders who are there for the social and fun factor and not just the darts. What we do not see is the regular dart league games. So that is a huge difference – what we are saying is that we want our league matches to have the fun packed adventure of, for example the PDC darts scene, and this is something on the Island we strive to do each week – so aim high.
But, there is more… I can play darts easily but I cannot ride a speedway bike easily can I?.... uhhh well actually you can. Come to My First Skid on the island for example (or one of the other great schools across the country). Why have I added this bit…... well because I can prove that people who know nothing about speedway will come to our speedway school with little Johnny or Evie and try riding a speedway / twist and shoot bike (we even have a bike with stabilizers on). Then when they have tried it and realise that they have signed up their baby to ride a bike without brakes and watch some of the more advance riders a flying around their interest is caught... and this has been a big success on the island for us. I cannot begin to tell you, but I would suspect it has put at least 20 families on our gate each week over last year.
Attendances.... our attendances last year increased for every meeting bar one... but it was hard work to achieve this.. My First Skid, shows, schools, scouts, you name it we went there. We held a free meeting too which attracted a lot of people but our core focus is on making speedway part of a bigger show that involves kids, rider interaction, fun, up to date music, slick presentation, and for us, this has really worked. While of course we value massively our senior supporters, for example the nice story about Ann Barrett, but at the same time we focus on tomorrow's support too and what makes them want to come to speedway. The truth of this in my view is 2 fold... one they need to feel valued, be entertained, follow a team and receive value for money. (I am not sure I agree with what is the right price to admit someone to speedway thought - but I do know that what you charge for entry must reflect what the person receives. This actually applies to everything – if you received a Micky D’s burger in a Michelin 5 star restaurant you would have cause for disappointment – yet both at the right price offer value to their customer. In other words, if someone leaves and thinks to themselves, that was awful, I didn’t get value, they will not return) and secondly, community.... we now have groups of kids running around the stadium of different ages, going to different schools, from across the Island and the first time I saw this I thought "yes.... that's it". Because I know as a child attending speedway I had different friends there compared to sea cadets, or school... and the truth is I still do.
Fixtures... without doubt for us, we run every week and we are expected to run every week and this is vital, in our view, to the clubs success.
Admission - we do offer lots of offers for free entry to newbies... but this comes at a “cost” to them. We would like them to give us feedback and to tell us their thoughts. This was another area where we won lots of new fans over the last two years.
Integrity.... agree totally. However, I am not sure how we ensure it as I am sure that rule manipulation has always happened. The difference of today vice yesterday is social media and the ability for anyone to find a problem and declare it to the world - I am not suggesting this is wrong of course... it is just very different to how things were, and the sport needs to adapt to this accordingly.
Correct it’s not just speedway - it is a fun family night out.... or as we say a fun packed family adventure. We want to entertain from entry to exit and this includes up to 10 mascots out on track for 30 minutes prior to the meeting, open pits, centre green visits, rider interaction, kids cycle race, me getting on a loudhailer when we were losing... and what is interesting for me last year when we had such a tough season not one person said to me - "Barry sort this out", they said, "thanks for another great night loved it.. we will win next week...." (I try to say goodbye to everyone after the meeting).
A business plan and a vision... you know when we looked at bringing speedway back we needed a business plan, we still use it, it is a vital part of our daily life, but it also enables us to look at what worked, what cost what, and so on... but all this is encompassed by a vision and when you have a vision you need your sponsors to share this with you (otherwise why would they invest in you and your club), and you need your fans to not only share it but help you achieve it and you need to prove it. When you prove it tell the world about it.
We made a promise to never charge for kids 16 and under and we will not (but interestingly I know have people writing to me to offer to buy kids tickets to social events - we never charge for them and they say we know, we want to just help... amazing hey?). Our second promise was to find riders from the island and we do this through My First Skid and we will enter the SDL league with the Wightlink Wizards with a team of students from the school.
Finally, I view you coming to watch the Warriors, Wizards or attending a My First Skid session as though you are coming to visit my house. I would be totally gutted if you didn’t have a great time, it’s personal to me, you have actually invested in our club by coming and that is important. Of course we can never get everything right, but we do listen and we do read lots of information on forums and social media, as well as asking our fans for their feedback on how we perform. We never lose sight the we are not millionaires and without a healthy sponsorship and fan base there could not be speedway on the island which is why we put every effort we can to make it succeed.
Anyway, thanks for the feedback on here about your views, we appreciate it..... if I could make one request as a promoter, fan, ex-rider, school instructor... is try and match your concern with positivity too because there are lots of it... if we all collectively talk our sport down, it will only go down, nothing will be able to bring it back up, but if we focus on our positives, while working on our concerns we can return our sport to the level it should be at. I know this works.. when kids come through the school… everyone cheers them for their first ride, they are my superstar every time they go out, we educate, we are disciplined but we have the most fun and you know what…. They come back… but you knew I would write that didn’t you. Positivity does work, trust me.
Thanks again and I hope to see you trackside in 2018. If you come to the island grab me for a chat I am always in yellow and blue, probably with kids all around me as I look like Mr Tumble, or screaming with the fans.
Have a wonderful Christmas and New Year, and thanks again for supporting your club wherever that may be.